WSAZ - Blogs - At the Capitol

Oct 6, 2011- Changes Coming in W.Va. Senate?

By: Michael Hyland
By: Michael Hyland

A power struggle could lead to another major change at the Capitol.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A power struggle could lead to another major change at the Capitol.
    
Now that Earl Ray Tomblin (D) is officially going to become governor, there's another job to fill. The whole time Tomblin's been acting as governor, he's also been Senate President.
    
It’s a powerful position. The Senate President is first in the line of gubernatorial succession and decides many of the top leadership positions in the Senate.
    
Sen. Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) has been Acting Senate President since the beginning of the year, but now things may change.

Kessler’s position was created amid disagreement among senators. Some thought the state needed an acting president to ensure separation of powers, but others thought it was unconstitutional.

"Frankly, under those very difficult circumstances I think myself and the Senate…I think we did a very good job," says Kessler.

But, others don't.
    
He shuffled up the leadership and angered some senators over how he ran things. Some senators accuse Kessler of creating a “north/south” divide, which Kessler calls “ludicrous.”
    
When Sen. Brooks McCabe (D-Kanawha) went public that he was thinking about trying for Kessler's job, Kessler stripped him of the Senate President pro tempore position.

"I look forward to causing the senate to be more unified, more focused and to work more closely with Governor Tomblin," says McCabe.

Kessler says, "I expect my leadership to team to all wear the same jerseys and pull in the same direction."
    
Now, there's a third person interested: Sen. Mike Green (D-Raleigh). He shares some of the concerns as McCabe, such as the Senate working cohesively.

Caught in the middle are people like Sen. Ron Stollings (D-Boone).
    
He's on Kessler's leadership team but lives near McCabe and Green.
 
"Who can be the leader, the strong leader that the senate needs?” asks Stollings. “I'm very comfortable where I am right now with the current leadership team."

But, everyone thinks they have the votes to win, meaning the state could be facing yet another change in power in a year that's been filled with twists and turns.

Here’s the order of how things will play out:

First, Tuesday's election results have to be certified. Assuming there are no issues, Tomblin will then resign his Senate seat and be sworn in as governor.
    
Then, he'll call a special session of the Legislature, so senators can work out the issue of the Senate President. It's expected that special session will happen before Thanksgiving.

In addition, a committee of Democratic Party members from the counties Tomblin represents will recommend a replacement for him in the Senate. It’s unclear if that person will be appointed in time to cast a vote for Senate President.

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